Maine is unique in its size, geographical diversity, and demographics and requires a distinct approach to energy planning. For example, Maine is majority-rural, with a high percentage of low-income households, and its residents endure frigid winters. Despite these challenges, Maine also has unique characteristics that give the state an edge in reducing emissions, especially through its offshore wind industry, and its carbon-sequestering forest industry.
Maine’s abundant wind, water, and forestry resources are economic drivers and position the state as a leader in renewable energy. As of 2019, about 80% of Maine’s electricity is produced from renewable sources. Maine’s offshore wind industry is emerging as a competitive market advantage in the energy sector, and can create skilled labor, new technologies, product lines, and projects. In the summer of 2020, a floating offshore wind project was approved to demonstrate the new technology off the coast of Maine. The competition for the next generation of offshore wind is fierce on the global level and Maine can harness its ocean energy resources to not only export its innovative technology and specialized expertise.
Buildings & Energy Efficiency
Acadia Center is playing a leadership role in developing strategies to reduce building energy use in Maine. Maine has some of the oldest building stock in the U.S., with 56% of homes built before 1980, which will require a suite of energy efficiency upgrades. Older, leaky homes and buildings mean more wasted heat and dollars escaping and higher “energy burden”, where too much of a household’s income is going toward energy costs (electricity, home heating, and transportation) rather than rent/mortgage, groceries, and other necessities. Building heating in Maine is also heavily reliant on fossil fuels: approximately 61% of Maine households use oil as their primary heating fuel, more than any other state. If natural gas, kerosene, and propane are included, 80% of Mainers’ heating comes from fossil fuels. Acadia Center was a member of the Buildings, Infrastructure, and Housing (BIH) Working Group of the Maine Climate Council and has helped develop recommendations to:
- Improve the design and construction of new buildings, including updated and expanded building codes. This will promote greater energy efficiency, use of cleaner energy supplies and low-carbon materials (including mass timber), and resilience for individual buildings.
- Transition to cleaner heating and cooling systems, including high-efficiency heat pumps. Maine has already set an aggressive goal of 100,000 additional heat pumps installed by 2025 which are vastly more efficient in converting energy to useful heat, and they run on electricity which, in Maine, is relatively clean and on a pathway to being primarily derived from clean, renewable sources. Heat pumps run on clean electricity are commercially available, effective in cold Maine winters, and are suitable in single family homes, affordable housing and multi-family apartments, and commercial buildings.
- Enhance the efficiency and resiliency of existing buildings by “weatherizing” — reducing air leakage and improving insulation levels. This work is particularly important in Maine’s old building stock, including affordable housing, low-income, and rural homes. These improvements reduce energy usage and carbon emissions, increase resident comfort, build home equity, and offer opportunities to remediate mold, lead, and other health hazards.
Acadia Center is working with its partners to accelerate the transition to low-carbon transportation. Through its leadership with Climate Maine and the Maine TCI Advocates Group, Acadia Center is:
- Supporting incentives to increase the number of electric vehicles (EV’s) in Maine and maximize access to EV charging stations.
- Supporting and participating in TCI, a regional cap-and-invest program to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Mainers will decide how the revenues generated by TCI can be used to provide funding for healthier, more affordable transportation solutions that serve the needs of all Maine residents, especially rural populations.
- Working to increase public transportation funding and expanding investment in healthier transportation, including construction of biking and walking paths that give people the opportunity to drive less.
Clean Power & Utility Innovation
Energy policy in Maine is driven alternatively by competitive pressures to keep energy prices low and environmental goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Acadia Center is leading efforts to develop strategies and build coalitions around reforms focused on Maine’s electricity and utility sector:
- Ensuring adequate, affordable clean energy supply to meet Maine’s 100% renewable goals, including distributed energy resources like solar and wind.
- Modernizing transmission & distribution systems to better integrate of distributed energy resources (like solar), microgrids and storage, and effective use of non-wire alternatives (NWAs) in planning so that the grid can support the clean energy needed to achieve Maine’s climate goals, and is modern, flexible, and community-focused.
- Reforming utility planning to make it easier to electrify for heating, cooling, and transportation and more equitable for low-income, rural, and other vulnerable populations.
- Authorizing state agencies, including the Maine Public Utilities Commission, to consider climate and equity on equal footing in their regulatory and programmatic decision-making.
- Supporting a clean energy economy in a post-COVID pandemic world.
Natural Lands & Forestry
Maine’s extensive natural forests play an essential role in capturing atmospheric carbon. Currently, Maine forestland sequesters the equivalent of 75% of Maine’s GHG emissions and hold a tremendous potential – with greater focus and investment – to sequester even more carbon and offset further emissions from all other sectors of Maine’s economy. Maine is 90% forested and has a thriving timber industry. The use of carbon-sequestering, low-carbon building materials such as cross-laminated timber and wood-fiber insulation has huge environmental and economic potential to increase economic activity in the forest products industry; benefit rural economies by creating more demand for wood; and improve forest management to capture carbon emitted in other sectors of the economy.
Acadia Center’s representation on the Maine Climate Council Natural and Working Lands Working Group and its leadership with Climate Maine is helping to drive solutions to:
- Protect and conserve natural lands through a dedicated, sustained funding source and technical assistance to support a robust forest products economy, increase carbon storage opportunities, avoid emissions, and enhance climate adaptation and resilience.
- Address embodied carbon- the carbon footprint of a material from its development (factory) to its end use (building) – by increasing demand for low-carbon construction materials, including Maine-made wood-based products such as cross-laminated timber and wood-fiber insulation.
Acadia Center has leadership roles with the Climate Maine Coalition and the Maine Climate Council. The organization is part of a stakeholder group with the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, building on the framework for identification and procurement of non-wires alternatives, and is working with Efficiency Maine Trust and Governor’s Energy Office on various energy and utility reform policies. Acadia Center is on a stakeholder group aimed at exploring ways to better align utility regulation with decarbonization and clean energy goals and is engaging in direct discussions with Maine’s investor-owned utilities. Acadia Center is also working to build a strong business-focused coalition to help support climate and clean energy priorities.